ISLAMABAD: Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII) organized a roundtable discussion on “The Evolution of Pakistan–Russia Relations” The guest speaker was Andrew Korybko, a Moscow based American political analyst.

According to Korybko the rerouting of global trade and creation of new marketplaces through the One Belt One Road (OBOR) would inevitably have political consequences because it would help pioneering the creation of new multipolar institutions whose members would eventually divest from their unipolar counterparts in replacing US-led Western Globalisation with Chinese-led Silk Road Globalisation.

He said that Russia and Pakistan are stakeholders in OBOR through the Eurasian Land Bridge and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) respectively, as they each believe that they have more to gain from a progressively reformed international system which gives them a more equitable stake in its affairs than continue with the existing one where they are marginalised and “contained”.

He indicated that China wants to integrate with Russia and Pakistan as it seeks to develop new trade routes, access new marketplaces, and contribute to the long-term stabilisation of its neighbouring Great Powers, while the US wants to obstruct this partnership. Accordingly, Afghanistan emerges as the most crucial focal point of American pressure because of the potential that this state’s prolonged destabilisation has in disrupting China’s multipolar transnational connective infrastructure projects with Russia and Pakistan, understanding that its problems could easily migrate to Central and South Asia if they are not adequately resolved. This shared interest in Afghanistan’s stability is what most immediately brought Russia and Pakistan together, said a press release issued here on Thursday.

Korybko said that as a result of this imperative, Russia and Pakistan drew closer to one another in coordinating their diplomatic and political responses to the War in Afghanistan, with the outcome being the incipient Moscow peace process. He, however, stressed that relations did not just stop there, as they have become all-encompassing and truly comprehensive, and the credit goes to both leaderships for being brave enough to step away from the long shadow of the past in charting a new future together.

Korybko stressed that Russia was also equally influenced by the Chinese model of partnership in agreeing to restart relations with Pakistan from a blank slate in overcoming their historical challenges and finally seeing the Pakistan of today as different from the one of the past. However, he emphasised that Russia’s rapprochement with Pakistan is not aimed against India, but some voices in New Delhi seem to believe that it is, and they are being encouraged to think that way by the US. Likewise, Pakistan’s rapprochement with Russia is not aimed against the US, but India wants America to see it that way in order to widen the rift between Islamabad and Washington.

He said that Russia and Pakistan’s traditional partners are against their Silk Road coordination with China, while these two Cold War-era rivals happen to find themselves in agreement about the wisdom in working with Beijing on this matter.

Korybko said that although the Russian government has been ambiguous about its willingness to participate in CPEC in order to preserve its delicate 21st-century geostrategic balancing act, particularly as it relates to India, this does not at all mean that Russian companies cannot partake in this project or trade goods along its route. To the contrary, the lack of Russian state investment in CPEC could be compensated by an increase in Russian private investment, with a future eye on extending CPEC from its Xinjiang hub to southern Siberian one day. This could add a significant robustness to Russia’s own “Pivot to Asia” by making it more than just about East-West connectivity, China, and the virgin Russian Far East, and broadening it to include North-South connectivity, Central and South Asia, and resource-rich Siberia.

He said that the diversification of Russian-Pakistani relations in the past couple of years from their common peace-seeking ground in Afghanistan to military, energy, and even institutional cooperation via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) testifies to the fact that both countries’ leadership remains dedicated to enhancing all-around relations with one another. In his concluding remarks, Korybko said that the energy ties between Russia and Pakistan are forecast to expand as progress is made on the North-South gas pipeline and possibly other projects as well, while real-sector economic relations will probably continue to lag behind all the others until more progress is made on this front. He emphasised that a positive suggestion would be to promote the Central Asian and Siberian connectivity potentials of CPEC to Russian and Pakistani businessmen, both state-connected and private, since they’ll eventually become the vanguard ambassadors of their homelands in each other’s country as they pioneer the next person-to-person phase of the Russian-Pakistani rapprochement. —PR